Why its fandom deserves more than Freeform’s tone-deaf ‘Shadowhunters’ tweet
Proving once more that Freeform has no interest in satisfying the desires of the dedicated Shadowhunters fandom, the network took to Twitter this weekend with the announcement of the most underwhelming news in this entire saga: the “final” episodes will air next February.
With any other TV show, such a post would be met with delight and a note in the datebook. But when it comes to this supernatural series, there are a number of reasons that make this so-called update nothing more than a slap in the face to the Shadowfam members who have fought hard ever since Freeform announced the decision to cancel the show back in June.
Shadowhunters fans didn’t just take to social media to share their disdain – they actively campaigned using unique and courageous methods to get their message across, and have been doing so each and every day since the announcement.
They raised money to rent #SaveShadowhunters pedicabs that circled this year’s SDCC. They flew a #SaveShadowhunters banner over the Netflix headquarters. They purchased billboard spaces in Times Square and Seoul subway stations. They even raised nearly $23,000 to donate to LGBTQ+ charity The Trevor Project.
The Shadowfam has shown an unrivalled level of commitment to supporting each other and their show – which is why Freeform’s delayed update has riled up the fans. It might sound positive with its “save the date” momentum, but in reality the network has done little more than the bare minimum, instead choosing to brush the ongoing campaign under the carpet.
What about season four?
After all, the ardent efforts of the Shadowfam were to prevent the remaining S3 episodes of Shadowhunters being their “last hunt”. Not only had these episodes already been filmed, but episode plans for S4 were well underway. One could even claim Freeform has given the fandom less than the bare minimum – to say they’re not happy about it is an understatement.
Shadowhunters Austria wrote in reply to the post: “You mean the final episodes before season 4?” Just below that, MalecFicLibrary declared: “After refusing to fight for even one additional, shorter season to allow them to wrap up the storylines they were already beginning to work on for Season 4? Even after all of the public outcry for the last 5 months?”
These aren’t standalone sentiments – the tweet has garnered over 600 replies and counting, a majority of which reflect disappointment over those who have continued shouting the message loud and clear to be heard in a market that has overlooked the value of their beloved TV show.
Yes, Freeform’s tone-deaf message was just a dressed-up way of saying, “We’re axing the show and there’s nothing you can do about it.” But the network rubbed salt in the wound by the way it chose to deliver the message, teasing “big news” to the fans the day before thereby raising hopes the show would return.
MalecFicLibrary went on to point out: “Did you really add the #ShadowhuntersLegacy hashtag, as coined by the cast and crew, to this poster? Alongside ‘The Final Episodes?’ After cancelling the show and forcing them to create a satisfying an ‘end’ to the show as they could with less than 2 hours of screen time?”
Many fans pointed out the blasphemous use of the #Shadowhunterslegacy hashtag, something LadyLaduga said was “never meant for you to use”. The collective antipathy is easy to understand, given Freeform is cutting the show in its prime and ending the legacy that fans hoped would continue for years to come.
The announcement was no doubt an uncomfortable experience for the actors too, who were obliged to use their own social media accounts to promote the air dates, despite knowing full well how much it would hurt the fans.
Alisha Wainwright – who plays Maia in the show – wrote: “So happy we have an air date! Monday February 25 2019 #ShadowhuntersLegacy”. Katherine McNamara a.k.a. Clare Fray said, “It’s official! Get ready angels… it all begins Feb 25th. Are you ready? #ShadowhuntersLegacy.” On the same date, Magnus’s Harry Shum Jr. simply said: “2.25.19 IT’S ON! @ShadowhuntersTV”.
The Shadowfam being the polite collective it is was kind in its replies to the actors and considerably less inflamed than in their statements to Freeform, with many expressing their craving for a season four and their anguish over the thought of having to say goodbye to their favorite characters.
Up until this point, the actors continually expressed gratitude and grace in the face of the #SaveShadowhunters campaign – heck, Jack Yang even cosplayed as his own character at the SDCC and took a ride in the Shadowhunters pedicab. It’s doubtful they enjoyed letting their fanbase down with such a monumental blow – but presumably the cast members were faced with no other choice.
It’s more than just a TV show
Shadowhunters is more than just a show for those who watch it – it’s a lifeline. Not only are its fantasy-fuelled episodes a form of escapism for the viewers, but it also offers diverse storylines and depictions of LGBTQI and female characters with a complexity and depth unrivaled by other YA shows on TV right now.
The Shadowfam members continually drive the message that their favorite show is the only one to move forward with acceptance and inclusivity where others fall flat. As Twitter user @OUaTPreachers previously told Film Daily, the show portrays how “normal” an LGBTQI relationship is, destroys toxic stereotypes attached to bisexuality, and diminishes prejudices some people may have with regards to gender and sexuality.
“Personally, this show helped me accept my own bisexuality after suffering internalised biphobia” – a subject explored via Magnus’s (Harry Shum, Jr.) confidence and refreshing lack of shame for being bisexual.
For some, the show’s storylines quite literally changed their lives for the better. “I love the story, especially the storyline of Alec (Matthew Daddario) and Magnus,” explained @hellofavillain. “Both of those characters touched me personally and I see myself in them. They gave me the courage to come out to my family and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
The Shadowfam deserves more
Shadowhunters is inclusive, incorporating previously marginalized sexualities, genders, and races without patronizing or stereotyping its characters. Considering so many other TV shows failing to offer the same, it’s not surprising its fandom refuses to throw in the towel and allow their show to vanish from the Shadow World.
This also explains why they’re so pissed at Freeform’s “big news”. The Shadowfam deserves more than months of silence, only to be told what they already knew. They’ve worked tirelessly to see the storylines of each character continued into season four and beyond, and yet they’ve been ignored by the decision-makers.
Speaking at the London MCM Comic Con, Shadowhunters’s Chai Hansen said: “Coming into it I knew it was huge, but seeing that level of support from the fanbase was so honoring. I feel so humbled. There were like 18-20 million tweets to save it.”
If the ongoing campaign has proven anything, it’s that there’s a vast and zealous fanbase more than worthy of investing in. Although Freeform said the decision to cut the show came down to “economical reasons”, one Tumblr user mused, “So Freeform cancelled Shadowhunters because they can’t afford production, as if season one wasn’t filmed in McG’s backyard with two flashlights and an iPhone.”
The delayed, throwaway announcement about the “final” episodes of the show isn’t good enough. It seems like a no-brainer to save Shadowhunters when there are so many fans out there fighting its corner, and yet Freeform, it would appear, has made its final decision.
So what’s the conclusion? As has been shown with previous campaigns such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Lucifer – with notably smaller fanbases – there are dozens of other networks that would benefit from taking on this show and continuing the #ShadowhuntersLegacy for the fans who want it.
Freeform might ask to “save the date”, but to all the other networks out there, how about “save the show”?